Today, more and more women are being recognized for their varied roles in advancing society, but there are still many women who have yet to receive widespread acknowledgement and almost certainly didn’t make it into your sausage party of a history textbook. Here are five amazing women you should know about.
5. Dolores Huerta
Dolores Huerta is probably the most recognizable name on this list, but she still deserves more celebration. As both a civil rights activist and labor leader, Huerta founded the National Farm Workers Association (later United Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee) alongside Cesar Chavez in 1962. Huerta continued her work with Chavez in the famous Delano grape strike, the labor movement that united Mexican-American and Filipino-American migrant workers in their fight for better treatment and pay. In fact, it was Huerta’s idea to make grapes the crop as they took a boycott nationwide (Chavez had suggested potatoes, but Huerta pointed out that everyone associated potatoes with Idaho farmers, not California field workers). Huerta has continued to lead an incredibly politically active life, working tirelessly on behalf of workers, immigrants, and women. She has been awarded the United States Presidential Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was the first Latina inductee into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. To quote Dolores, “Si, se puede.”
4. Alice Guy-Blache
Alice Guy-Blache was most likely the first female filmmaker, but she contributed so much more to the fledgling field. She directed over 1,000 films, including the first to feature color and sound. Guy-Blanche is even arguably responsible for the first fictional film. She pioneered naturalistic acting in her films, as well as focusing on a single character’s perspective. As if that weren’t enough, she founded The Solax Company, one of the first film studios owned and managed by a woman. Despite her numerous accomplishments, including employing some of the first special effects, Guy-Blanche had received limited recognition, even in her own lifetime, and only about 350 of her films have survived to this day.
3. Ida B. Wells
Ida B. Wells was an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement was a founding member of the NAACP. She was an ardent anti-lynching advocate, investigative journalist, and lecturer. In addition, Wells was an active feminist and suffragette, who stood up to the white-dominated suffragette movement. She founded the first African American women’s suffrage organization and they marched in the famous 1913 Women’s Suffrage Parade. When Wells was told that her organization had to march in a segregated section, she refused. Wells was also one of the first American women to keep her own last name after marriage. She fought against injustice in the world and should be remembered for it.
2. Ada Lovelace
Today, only about 6.7% of women get a degree in a STEM field and even once they’re in the field, they still face great opposition, especially in areas like computer programming. Therefore, it may be surprising to learn that the world’s first computer programmer was none other than Ada Lovelace. Lovelace was a skilled writer and mathematician whose computer programming cred comes from her work on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, a mechanical general-purpose computer. Despite the fact that Babbage built the Engine, Lovelace was the one that realized the further applications for such a device beyond pure calculation. She created the first algorithm for the machine, and thusly became the world’s first computer programmer. No, not the first female computer programmer, just first.
1. Katherine Sui Fun Cheung
“I wanted to fly, so that’s what I did.” Born in China, Katherine Sui Fun Cheung moved to the United States by herself at only 17 in order to study music, she had a change of plans. After marrying her husband (she was another woman who kept her maiden name!) and having her two daughters, she took up flying. In 1932, she received her pilot’s license, the first Chinese-American woman to do so. Cheung was a prodigy; she completed her first solo flight after just 12 and a half hours of training and was skilled at daredevil tricks. During World War II, she became a flight instructor. Perhaps the best thing about her piloting was her attitude. As she said, “What’s the point of flying if you can’t have fun doing it?”